On the wall of my family lounge room in regional NSW was a framed tourist map of Lebanon. The poster was unfolded in 1988 after it was picked up from the airport by my fleeing parents on their way to Australia from Beirut. The lines of the map were so familiar to me I could plot the towns from the mountains; Hasroun, Tannourine, Bcharre right up to Tartus on the Syrian coast.
The mural work on the wall of a carpark off Tongaboo Lane in Wagga Wagga, gives 28 young people a chance to trace their own journey. The portraits, titled No Borders in Our Sky, created on boards more than 10 metres wide and fastened to the wall, are collaged with the topography of borders and towns significant to the journey of each face, but it is the use of technology that propels the work from a one-dimensional mural to individual statements. The depth of heritage lies beyond the maps, using a phone to scan the portraits brings up music, poetry and animations created by each artist, exploring the imagination and personality behind the face.
Multicultural Council of Wagga Wagga Community Development Officer Thom Paton said the project, completed over 12 months, gave more than 50 young people in the regional town a chance to bond over their similarities. “There was a pride in being a part of this project, and to have their images and their stories available to the wider public,” Mr Paton said. “We didn’t realise the size and scale of what we were going to present, but to see them showing their parents and their family, it was just amazing.”
Each portrait, shaded with the maps of Myanmar, Iraq, Tibet, Liberia, and Wiradjuri country, also include the songs created in studio, and animations, pairing soft piano sounds with bold and hypnotic 3D sketches. “The creativity doesn’t just live behind one portrait,” Mr Paton explained. “Some of the works have been played on radio which is an achievement on its own. And the bond that was created in learning about the similarities between everyone’s story.”
The mural, installed during the Wagga Wagga Lost Lanes event, in a joint works by the Multicultural Council and Heaps Decent, remains in place, as a testament to the road taken and significance of heritage.